The most surprising part of the criticism by the UN's Rodolfo Stavenhagen of race relations in New Zealand is that anyone should take it seriously.
Foreign Affairs minister Winston Peters snorted that the "Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People" arrived with "a preconceived agenda". Of course he did. After he was captured by vested interests during an eight-day, once-over-lightly tour, his report was designed to flatter his sponsors.
The report, inspired by complaints about the foreshore and seabed law, goes far further than criticising that legislation as a breach of human rights and was bound to please none but the claimants. Recommending binding powers for the Waitangi Tribunal and entrenching the treaty in legislation, the grenade Mexican Professor Stavenhagen tossed into the room will do no more than raise hopes for which fulfilment is inconceivable.
That the report's provenance should be the United Nations is all the more reason to ignore it. The trouble for the Government, which customarily embraces the UN and its works (in a dizzy moment racing to head the queue to sign up to Kyoto), is that it is now seen to be picking up only the bits it likes.
The UN is an expensive leviathan that in recent years has debased the principles on which it was founded and of the many who have since toiled within it. Its composition induces a paralysis, ensuring its impotence just when it is most needed. And its huge, unaccountable bureaucracy is further inflated by a misplaced sense of its own worth, of which the Special Rapporteur's critique is a further example.
The word "hypocrisy" doesn't feature in the UN's own lexicon: While there is plenty of work in his own backyard to keep Professor Stavenhagen occupied ("Human Rights Watch" has criticised Mexico for serious human rights violations, including torture and arbitrary detention) some prodigious skeletons lurk in the UN's closet.
There's the Iraqi oil-for-food racket; the West African sex-for-food scandal by paedophile aid workers; Cambodian drug dealing; refugee extortion in Kenya and sex slavery in the Balkans. Then there's the UN's Human Rights Commission, composed of representatives from some of the most repulsive governments on the planet. In 2003 that gloriously misnamed body, which is now in the process of being reformed, was chaired by Libya. (Iraq and Syria have also headed the Disarmament Committee and the Security Council). As one commentator acidly observed of the UN, when you mix dog doos with ice cream it still tastes like dog doos.
New Zealand buys into the UN, warts and all, because, regardless of the latter's many faults, there is a sublime belief that its intentions are noble, that the good it can do transcends the degradation. Furthermore, it is vital that we're part of the global community, even if multilateralism means having to submit to internationalism of the lowest common denominator (in the words of Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer).
The price of subscribing to UN protocols is that our elected representatives surrender some of their power. While our Government might choose to defer sovereignty to the UN, that organisation now lays claim to that authority through an itinerant official on a South Seas junket.